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Evelyn Berezin Was The Unsung Hero Behind World’s First Word Processor

Evelyn Berezin Was The Unsung Hero Behind World’s First Word Processor

Source: blogthinkbig

Remember those late night toils in completing the final copy of your thesis or final draft of your first novel and the typewriter goes numb and needs reinking or the ribbon needs to be replaced.

No. No one can remember this because modern humans make lists, write notaries and complete the weekend assignments using MS Word or Google Docs.


These word processors eliminate the drudgery of discarded papers and last minute trips to buy ribbon. Spell checks, undoing and redoing have become so common that it has made the job of a writer quite easy at least until one runs out of ideas.

Modern-day word processors, which are part of every personal computer, are by-products of innovators of the golden age of computing. The motivation would have been to make the job of a secretary easy or a big firm’s profitable outing, but the word processors ended up being efficient.

Evelyn Berezin designed some of the earliest computer systems for banks, airlines, stock exchanges and horse tracks and helped usher in a technological revolution in the form of first mass-produced word processor.

Berezin formed Redactron in 1969 and soon settled on a word processor as its flagship product. She also had designed many other innovative computing systems and helmed Redactron Corporation, a company that changed the life of a secretary forever.

Life As A Computing Pioneer

Her fascination with science began with reading science fiction periodicals left behind her brother. Born in 1925, Berezin earned a BA in physics at NYU before working throughout the 1950s and 1960s designing early computing systems; the period which saw a great surge in innovations in the field of computing with the invention of transistors.

Berezin’s other most significant contribution was to the field of aviation. Her airline reservations system for United Airlines served 60 cities throughout the United States with one-second response time and with no central system failures in 11 years of operation, which is outstanding even by modern day standards.

By the late 1960s, IBM had developed the IBM MT/ST (Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter). This was a model of the IBM Selectric typewriter from the earlier part of this decade, but built into its own desk, and integrated with a magnetic tape recording and playback facilities, with controls and a bank of electrical relays. But the device was bulky, hard to use and expensive.

This device allowed rewriting text that had been written on another tape and you could collaborate (send the tape to another person for them to edit or make a copy). It was a revolution for the word processing industry. In 1969 the tapes were replaced by magnetic cards. These memory cards were introduced in the side of an extra device that accompanied the MT/ST, able to read and record the work.

Whereas, the first version of Berezin’s word-processing machine had no screen and was the size of a modern washer or dryer, though later iterations brought displays and other improvements to the design.  

She sold 10,000 of these machines designed by her very own Redactron, over a period of seven years. The design was actually meant to be dealt with by Intel, which was newly formed and it needed time to design chips. These long durations squeezed every penny out of Redactron forcing them to design their own machines.

Priced at $8,000, Redactron competed with the likes of IBM and was hugely profitable. Redactron was later acquired by another computing giant of that period, Burroughs Corporation.

Following which, Berezin began her stint as a venture capitalist.  She is a physicist, computer engineer and entrepreneur but most importantly she is a visionary who has set high benchmarks for herself as well as for her contemporaries

There are more than sixty-word processing systems now and Berezin occupies a very special place in transforming digital communication forever. Berezin was inducted into the Long Island Technology Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Women in Technology Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 2011. She belongs to a handful of elites and pioneers whose contributions haven’t got the recognition they deserved.


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